From The Packer Archives:

June 16

Tasteful Selections says ‘Face your FOUP’

By Andy Nelson

Wisconsin Potatoes flashbackSpecialty potato shipper Tasteful Selections is banking on irreverent humor for a new marketing campaign.

The company is set to launch FOUP — the Fear Of Undercooked, Unwashed or Ugly Potatoes, according to a news release from Bancroft, Wis.-based RPE Inc., one of the partners in Tasteful Selections, which ships year-round from the Bakersfield, Calif., area.

The FOUP campaign features on-pack messaging, point-of-sale materials and display bins. All materials describe Tasteful Selections’ “FOUP-fighting factors” and encourages consumers to visit, where they can learn more about “the newly discovered affliction” of FOUP.

On the FOUP website, consumers can watch the FOUP YouTube video, take a FOUP quiz, vote for their biggest FOUP and pin FOUP statistics to their Pinterest boards. Blog partners and Tasteful Selections social media channels also will promote the campaign and show consumers how to become “FOUP fighters” in three simple steps: find Tasteful Selections at a store near them, prepare one of their favorite recipes and enjoy a FOUP-free life.

Consumers can also win a “FOUP Cure Kit” on the Tasteful Selections Facebook page. The kit includes a Tasteful Selections coupon, apron, recipe booklet and FOUP prescription pad and comes in a survival kit lunch cooler.

The other partners in Tasteful Selections are Watertown, S.D.-based CSS Farms Inc.; and Stevens Point, Wis.-based Plover River Farms Inc.


April 28

Specialty spud growth keeps steaming along

By Vicky Boyd

While traditional potato types, such as whites and russets, struggle to maintain consumer sales, specialty potatoes continue to enjoy double-digit growth at retail.

Tasteful Selections LLC is one grower-shipper capitalizing on those changing consumer tastes. Part of Bancroft, Wis.-based RPE, it grows exclusively baby and specialty potatoes in Kern County, said Randy Shell, vice president of marketing and new business development.

This season, the Kern County production mix will be similar to last year — Honey Gold, Ruby Sensation, Purple Passion and White Delight baby potatoes as well as fingerlings, he said.

Acreage, however, continues to grow to meet increased retail and consumer demand, Shell said.

Although its growers have not yet been affected by the drought, he said water supplies continue to be a focus and the dry spell’s long-term effects are concerning.

The grower-shipper offers most of its specialty potatoes in three tuber sizes and three package sizes — 24 ounces, 28 ounces and 40 ounces.

“Consumers are focused on convenience and flavor, and small package sizes are leading the way,” Shell said.

“Russet potatoes continue to be king in terms of volume, but we’re seeing a long-term shift toward specialty, red and yellow potatoes.”

The grower-shipper also has begun marketing Ruby Sensation and Honey Gold in 16-ounce microwaveable steamer bags.

Although still a small part of its overall business, Shell said the sector continues to grow as consumers seek easy-to-prepare options.


April 7

Tasteful Selections partners with kid chef

By Andy Nelson

Tasteful Selections LLC is partnering with 13-year-old chef Jack Witherspoon on recipes and videos.

The deal will support Witherspoon’s efforts to fund research for leukemia, a disease he has suffered from, according to a news release from Tasteful Selections, a joint venture of potato grower-shippers Bancroft, Wis.-based RPE Inc.; Watertown, S.D.-based CSS Farms Inc.; Stevens Point, Wis.-based Plover River Farms Inc. Witherspoon’s recipes feature Tasteful Selections-branded specialty baby potatoes.

Tasteful Selections plans to post the recipes on its website ( and promote Witherspoon’s fundraising on social media. Giveaways on social media include Witherspoon’s award-winning cookbook, “Twist It Up,” which features 60 of his favorite original recipes. A portion of the cookbook’s proceeds go his permanent endowment at Miller Children’s Hospital, Long Beach, Calif., and to Beckstrand Cancer Foundation, Newport Beach, Calif., where Witherspoon is the pediatric spokesman.

Witherspoon began cooking to raise money for leukemia research when he was 6 and recovering from the disease. He has appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “The Bonnie Hunt Show,” “The Queen Latifah Show,” “The Marie Osmond Show,” “Rachael Ray Show” and other TV shows.

“It’s rewarding to support an inspiring young kid with such a worthy cause,” Russell Wysocki, president and CEO of RPE, said in the release. “Chef Jack’s recipes highlight the health benefits of Tasteful Selections with simple preparations that encourage kids to prepare and enjoy potatoes.”


Nov. 18, 2013

RPE donates potatoes to Katie’s Krops group

By Rachel English

RPE’s specialty brand Tasteful Selections is sponsoring Katie’s Krops, a youth gardening non-profit organization where children ages 9 through 16 can grow produce they donate to people in their communities. The Bancroft, Wis.-based company will donate a portion of profits from bags of Tasteful Selections’ Ruby Sensation and Honey Gold potatoes to Katie’s Krops.

Katie Stagliano’s organization began when she grew a 40-pound cabbage in 2008 and donated it to a local soup kitchen, spurring the idea for Katie’s Krops. For her contributions to hunger relief, Stagliano became the youngest recipient of the Clinton Global Citizen Award in 2012.

RPE’s donations will contribute to Katie’s Krops goal of establishing a vegetable garden in each of the 50 U.S. states. The organization has donated thousands of pounds of produce by providing grants to youth-led gardens across the country. “The donations received from these potato sales will go a long way in providing the funds that are needed to start new, youth-run Katie’s Krops gardens across America, thus providing a sustainable and healthy solution to hunger,” said Stagliano, founder and chief executive gardener of Katie’s Krops.


Aug. 12, 2013

Alsum bets smaller bins will move more spuds

By David Mitchell

Wisconsin Potatoes flashbackA standard potato bin can hold up to 200 5-pound bags, but Alsum Farms & Produce Inc. is working on the theory that less is more.

The Friesland, Wis., company has introduced three high-graphic bins that take up one-fourth the space of a traditional bin. That means retailers can display four products on one pallet or they can use the smaller bins to merchandise product in small spaces outside the produce department.

“The key to this is versatility,” said director of sales and marketing Rick Kantner. “You can merchandise in a small space or a different department. For example, you could have specialty potatoes near the eggs as part of a breakfast solution. Or Grillers make sense in the meat department near the steaks.”

Grillers are the company’s pre-washed, individually foil-wrapped russets that come in four-count tray packs. One of the new bins, designed specifically for displaying Grillers, looks like a gas grill. It holds up to 36 tray packs.

All three of the new bins are 23½ by 19¾ by 35¾ inches. A specialty bin can hold up to 72 creamer or steamer bags.

Kantner said the cardboard bins can be shipped preloaded, or they can be assembled at stores.

Meanwhile, Alsum has completed a 55,000-square-foot addition to its Friesland facility that includes office space and a packing shed expansion.

Kantner said the company has added three lines in order to increase capacity for packing specialty potatoes.

“It’s so we can segment our business,” he said. “We can keep moving russets without switching back and forth. We can increase output and efficiency.”

Kantner said in late July that the new lines were expected to be up and running by mid-September. The new equipment is expected to increase output by at least 20% in the first year, he said.

The new lines also include robotics that load and wrap pallets.

“It’s faster and saves labor,” Kantner said. “What we’re looking for is efficiency by reduced labor and more output.”


Aug. 5, 2013

‘Crazy’ potato market spurs early Wisconsin digs

By David Mitchell

In a typical year, potato growers who start digging their crop too soon give up some of their potential yield by harvesting immature spuds. But growers who wait this year may miss out on unheard-of prices.

“There are guys killing russets now,” Mike Carter, chief executive officer of Rosholt, Wis.-based Bushmans’ Inc., said July 30 of the step growers take before harvesting that sets the spuds’ skin. Some Wisconsin growers are killing potato plants — a process that diverts the plant’s energy to growing the potatoes.

“Digging early sacrifices yield, but the market is high enough that they’re starting now anyway. It’s not a full-blown harvest, but some of our partners should be ready soon.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture did not have a price for Wisconsin potatoes available in its July 30 report, but the same day Bob Johnson, sales manager for Katz Produce Sales, Plover, Wis., said 50-pound bags of size B reds were going for as much as $27-29 in Wisconsin.

“I’ve never seen prices this high before,” he said. “It’s not unusual at this time of year to see $10-15 on Bs, but I’ve never seen $29 before.”

Johnson said there soon would be more reds available from Wisconsin, but there also were areas like North Carolina and Southern California that were finishing up their seasons. Furthermore, sizes in Wisconsin likely will be getting bigger as harvest progresses, which means less Bs.

Rick Kantner, director of sales and marketing for Alsum Farms & Produce, Friesland, Wis., said markets will maintain significantly high prices until supplies increase, likely in early September. Although high prices can be good for growers, there are limits, he said.